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The Baying of the Hounds

Headspace: How the state is leading us by the nose

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Friends, aware of my interest, started to send me articles they came across.

One was about a headmaster who had told his pupils to line their bags up outside and congregate in the assembly room. While he talked, police officers, who had been invited on to the school grounds, had their dogs sniff the children's bags for drugs.

I thought I'd phone the Home Office to find the official policy on sniffer dogs.

"Hello. Can you tell me if you have any guidance on sniffer dogs?"

The man on the end of the telephone sniggered.

"On what?"

"Sniffer dogs."

"No, I don't think so."

"Well, do you have any publications on sniffer dogs at all?"

"No, I don't think so," he laughed again.

"Well that is odd, because a large number of police forces seem to have started using them. Are you sure the Home Office doesn't have any information on them?"

"Not that I have come across. I suggest you try the police."

I phoned up a friend and former head of the drug squad.

"What do you know about sniffer dogs?"

"Nothing, never had anything to do with them."

"But it must have been when you were in charge that the police started to use them for finding drugs?"

"As I say, I don't remember having anything to do with them. A friend of mine runs a dog training school though. I'll have a word. I'm sure he won't mind you making a visit."

"Fantastic," I said. "Thanks very much."

Over Christmas in Majorca I had coffee with an exboyfriend who now works as a policeman. I told him about my research. He told me that they were setting up a canine unit on the island. He was sure it was for explosive detection only. I had my doubts given the ever-increasing demands put upon law enforcement by the War on Drugs. I met up with a local legalise cannabis activist, and tried to alarm him with stories of whom the dogs were being used against in the UK and the news that a canine unit was planned for Majorca.

"Tranquila Ambar. They won't do that here. Not in Majorca. I tell you why. We had a protest recently. It was stopped by the police who beat the protestors with sticks. The next day, one of these policemen goes round to his uncle's house and sits down at the kitchen table. 'Get out,' shouts his uncle. 'You can't beat me with a stick one day and expect a meal the next.' Majorcans would never allow the state to sniff our balls. If they start trying to behave here like that with those dogs, the dogs will be killed.

"'Who killed my dog?' the officer will ask. 'What dog?' they will reply." He shook his head and walked across the room. "No, the Majorcans won't stand for it, even less so if the dog is not a Majorcan breed."

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